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Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Shameful Four Corners Archaeological Raids

     On June 9, 2009, in Blanding, Moab, and Monticello, Utah; Durango, Colorado; and Albuquerque, New Mexico; FBI and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents conducted 17 simultaneous pre-dawn SWAT raids into the homes of people who collected Indian relics. Eleven of the raids took place in Blanding, a San Juan County town in southeastern Utah.

     San Juan County is located in the heart of the Colorado Plateau of canyons and mountains that was home to the ancient Puebloan (Anasazi) people. These so-called cliff-dwellers, from 700 to 1300, populated an area about the size of Connecticut. The Zuni and the Hopi, as well as a dozen other Native American tribes, are thought to be the descendants of the Anasazi.

     The SWAT raids resulted in the seizure of thousands of artifacts that had been removed from the ruins of the Anasazi cliff dwellings, and various burial sites. A group of 24 collectors and dealers were charged with felonies and misdemeanors under the 1979 federal law called the Archaeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA) which prohibits, among other things, the taking of Native American artifacts from tribal and federal land. (In the American west, the federal government owns well over 50 percent of the land.)

     All but three of the 19 San Juan County arrestees lived in Blanding, Utah, a Mormon town where collecting Anasazi artifacts--pottery, baskets, rugs, flint projectile points, sandals, pendants, beads, effigies, and slate atlatl weights (also called banner stones)--has been a popular hobby for more than a hundred years. Collectors swept up in the SWAT raids that morning included the town's only physician and his wife; a high school math teacher whose brother was San Juan County Sheriff; and 12 others. More than half of the arrestees, prominent member of the community, were over 60 years old.

     The day following the heavily armed home invasions, residents of San Juan County were shocked to learn that Dr. James D. Redd, the 60-year-old Blanding physician who had been indicted on one count of theft of Indian tribal property (his wife faced 7 felony counts), had killed himself. A beloved doctor who still made house calls, Dr. Redd's suicide intensified the anti-government feelings in the town. (In 1986, there had been a similar SWAT raid of collectors' homes in Blanding. The federal government failed to prosecute anyone in that case, but hundreds of Anasazi pots were seized, and none of them returned.)

     A week after the four corners SWAT raids, an ARPA arrestee from Durango, Colorado, a 56-year-old collector on the periphery of the federal investigation, also committed suicide. By now, residents of the region, and artifact collectors and dealers across the country, were outraged by what they considered Gestapo-like tactics in the enforcement of the federal archaeological protection law.

The Snitch

     The federal investigation that led to the four corners SWAT raids, the most extensive ARPA case in history, began in 2006 when Ted C. Gardiner, a former Salt Lake City area antiques dealer and collector of prehistoric Native American artifacts, approached the FBI. Gardiner offered to use his online antiques business to gather evidence against collectors and dealers he said had been trafficking in artifacts illegally taken from federal and tribal lands in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. The FBI paid the 48-year-old "confidential human source" an initial fee of $10,000 followed by monthly payments of $7,500. Between March 1, 2007 and October 8, 2008, Gardiner, the former owner and CEO of a Utah based grocery story chain founded by his grandfather, clandestinely audio and video recorded 132 telephone and in-person conversations with 22 artifact collectors and a half dozen dealers. (On the day of the SWAT raids, FBI agents had searched the homes of four prominent artifact dealers in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the hub of the Anasazi artifact trade. Although none of these men were indicted, the agents confiscated artifacts from one dealer.)

     During his undercover investigation, Gardiner, equipped with a hidden video camera, accompanied a handful of collectors on artifact digging excursions on federal land. In addition to the $335,000 the FBI paid to the informant to buy 256 artifacts--sandals, blanket fragments, woven baskets, pottery, pipes, Clovis points, stone axes, flint knives, prayer sticks, pendants and other high-item pieces--they gave him another $162,000 to cover his expenses.

     On March 1, 2010, Gardiner, after have been exposed as the FBI's undercover informant by the local media, fatally shot himself in the head. The alcoholic, and former drug addict had been despondent over the previous two case-related suicides, and anxious about facing the collectors and dealers he had betrayed. Following Gardiner's suicide, the federal prosecutor in Utah assured reporters that the ARPA cases would not be adversely affected by the undercover operative's sudden death.

    In 2011 and 2012, all of the ARPA defendants, in exchange for sentences of probation, pleaded guilty.

Comments by Jay Redd, Dr.James Redd's Son

     On August 16, 2012, Jay Redd, in an email to the author, defended his parents, described the overkill nature of the federal raid, and set the record straight on some important details. The following are excerpts from his informative and credible email:

     My mom was a collector and not a trafficker, but again, my dad was neither. Everyone who knows my dad knows he did not collect artifacts. The feds watched him for two and a half years and they also knew he did not collect artifacts but that did not fit the mold the feds had planned for my dad to fit into....

     The reason they arrested Dr. Redd on June 10, 2009 was because he picked up off the surface of the ground a tiny little shell bead the feds call an "effigy bird pendent." My dad did not try to sell or trade the tiny little item to the informant or anyone else, he just showed it to him....The true market value of the bead my dad was arrested for is $75 but the informant and the feds inflated the price of it by over 1250 percent and said it was worth $1,000. Now why did they inflate the value? Because the felony charge they gave Dr. Redd required that the item in question, taken from Reservation land, must be valued at over $1,000 in order to qualify as a felony. Anything valued less than $1,000 would be a misdemeanor. Well, my dad would not have lost his medical license over a misdemeanor, but with a felony he would have and that is what the feds were shooting for....

     The treatment the feds imposed on my dad is beyond disgusting. On June 10, 2009 Dr. Redd was returning home from work early in the morning. As he drove up to his house he saw the numerous black SUVs parked there. As he was pulling up to the driveway one of the agents pointed to his FBI hat, drew his gun and pointed it at him. My dad stopped the vehicle and they yanked him from his car at gunpoint, handcuffed him and sat him down in his garage as they milled about him with their weapons. I wonder what the feds said when he requested to speak to his attorney....One of the head agents in charge that day boasted there were 80 agents at my parents house at one time and throughout the day (they searched the house for 11 1/2 hours). A total of 140 agents visited the house....The agent also said there were seven snipers on my parent's roof for hours and hours waiting for my brother to go down to the house....The day after the raid a resident from Blanding told me he watched my parent's house from a distance with his binoculars and said he saw the agents on the roof not moving for hours and hours....

     Concerning the undercover informant Ted Gardiner: If you read the police report and other articles about his suicide you will see that Ted said he "felt guilty for killing two people." Why would an undercover informant who was supposedly doing his job properly to rid the U.S. of evil underground criminals, feel guilty for the actions of those he caught in secret, illegal, underground activity. Could it be because he made friends with my dad who gave him medical advice on his ankle injury, encouraged him a few times to quit smoking to improve his health, invited him to the LDS church function that night....Ted knew he had a major part in Dr. Redd's death and after nine months of torment he could not take it anymore and therefore put a bullet in his head.  


  1. Pretty accurate. I was hired to help moderate fair market values on evidence material in Cerberus Action, the train wreck briefly described here. The FBI and BLM evidence released in discovery was disturbing to say the least. The lies, corruption and poor form exhibited by many of the agents, prosecution and the CI were in my opinion, crimes that were far more egregious than those committed by the defendants. The ripple effects from all of this is far from over

  2. A very similar situation just occurred in Florida and Georgia on February 27th, 2013. Unbelievable!

  3. I just listened to our Senator Hatch question Eric Holder about the nature of this raid! Senator Hatch practically apologized to Holder for having to ask him questions about the gestapo type raid. As a lawyer, this story makes me sick and furious all at the same time. There was no Antiquities Act when most of this collectors gathered or inherited artifacts. Our famous Museum in Price and the U of U's Natural History Museum include huge numbers of artifacts that had been kept for a hundred years and were preserved by original settlers' families. This raid could have occurred anywhere in the West where there had been an ancient culture. The purpose of the raid was not to arrest violent criminals. It was intended as the typical Shock and Awe bullshit that needs to be ended immediately. The US Code section 43-1733-C provides that no agency addressing issues on public lands may create its own paramilitary group. It expressly limits them to contracting with the LOCAL authority in the jurisdiction where the land is located. There was clear reason for that -- to keep control local to an elected Sheriff and to stop federal tyrants from abusing power. Heads should have rolled in those agencies in 2009 and they need to roll now.

  4. Shocking stories. Artifacts collected before the laws were enacted should not have been used in prosecuting the defendants. The blood of those who committed suicide cries out from the ground for justice

    1. The Antiquities Act of 1906 was in effect when most, if not all of these artifacts were taken.

  5. I just heard about this unbelievable incident from a co-worker today. He spent the past weekend in the Blanding area doing the 4-wheeler thing and heard about this from some of the locals. Many in the area are still keenly feeling the betrayal of a few of our governments 'finest'. To the families and friends of those whose live were lost because of this useless and pointless nonsense, I give my heart felt condolences. Certainly, those who conjured up the notion that 'criminals' were running wild in this relatively peaceful and quite community felt that the 'big city' mentality could 'teach' the 'hicks and farmers' from southeastern Utah a lesson about power, control over people and manipulation. Having come from such an area, I do understand the mentality of those who 'know better than you'. To those that were guiding this operation from the onset thru to completion of the arrests and subsequent legal proceedings, I hope that you share in the burden of loss of life that has resulted from careless actions, there is no doubt in my mind that you are personally responsible. Let it be clearly understood that I do not condone Criminal Behavior, but over a lifetime, I have also come to understand the need to use common sense in all of our actions . . . something that I fear has been lost in the chaos and deception that currently exist in some of our government and federal agencies. Carrying out the execution of searches of homes in quite communities certainly is a task that could be accomplished with relative ease when compared with securing our borders. If our resources are limited (which they are) wouldn't it make sense to focus on the things that really matter?
    For sure someone should be
    PS . . . what ever happened to the artifacts that were confiscated? Where is the report that would account for all that was taken from the homes of these criminal 'hobbyists' . . . can we be satisfied that these were returned to their original point of discovery (or museum for all to appreciate - with proper recognition of those who discovered them) or did they end up on the credenza of some government official to be displayed as a 'trophy'?